It’s never too late to explore new post-secondary options! Whether it’s getting your master’s or bachelor’s degree, or looking at after-degree certificates and diplomas, there’s no shortage of ways to open up new career opportunities.
Heading back to school is an important decision that can often result in better career opportunities. Knowing what you should be saving for, and what you can have funded by grants and bursaries, is key to making sure that education remains financially attainable.
Before you fill your backpack with books and pick out your courses, here are five ideas to think about if you’re heading back to school.
Know your funding options
The go-to solution for paying for school tends to be provincial and federal student loans. If you qualify, these can be some of the best funding options you can utilize with incredibly low repayment rates. In addition to student loans, there are plenty of alternate ways of paying for your schooling.
Provincial and federal information websites typically also have information about scholarship and bursary programs, which give you money for your studies and often the only requirement to receive this funding is that you complete your studies. If you’re looking at some postgraduate research work for a master’s or PhD, there are also grants through the federal and provincial governments and sometimes even through the school where you’re interested in researching. Check with the school you’re interested in attending to find out what grants, scholarships and bursaries are available to you.
Know your banking options
For most, RRSPs are for retirement and sometimes for a first home. But did you know you can also use your RRSP to help pay for your education? The federal government’s Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) allows you to withdraw money from your RRSP to help pay for any level of post-secondary.
Much like using your RRSP for buying a first home, it’s technically a loan. You have 10 years to pay back the money you withdraw from your RRSP, typically one-tenth of the money back each year. But unlike other loans, this money goes back into your RRSP with no interest accumulated on what you pay back.
Know your school options
Smaller universities and colleges tend to be much more affordable for annual tuition and offer similar studies as the major universities. The Universities Canada website provides a chart for all the post-secondary institutions they represent and provides information on how much students would be paying for tuition each year. New Brunswick’s Mount Allison University and Royal Roads University in Victoria were ranked as two of the most affordable schools in the country offering both undergraduate and postgraduate options.
The program you choose could also impact how much you pay. In 2017, Global News looked at a variety of post-secondary programs and found that dentistry, medicine and law carried some of the highest price tags while education, agriculture and humanities were among the most affordable.
Know the cost of living in your city
Knowing which city you want to study in could make a big difference in how much you spend. In fact, Canada Study News found that our country has three of the best cities in the world for students of all education levels: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. The University of Toronto and University of British Columbia are two of the most prestigious schools in the country. They are also in two of cities with some of the highest cost of living in Canada.
If you’re looking to study and live in Toronto or Vancouver, make sure to have a strong savings plan to help you prepare for school and a good budget in place for when your studies begin. Alternatively, you can select a prestigious school in a more affordable city like Edmonton or Montreal. This still gives you access to world-renowned schools at a much lower cost of living. In fact, Montreal has the highest concentration of students in all of North America due to its affordable tuition and student living.
Know your earning potential after you graduate
Time and time again, statistics show that education leads to better earnings. Research from Stats Canada outlines the higher education benefits and a 2017 report from CTV further illustrated many of findings from the federal government.
There are many degrees that focus on applicable careers after graduation. These include business, healthcare and engineering. If you’ve already completed an undergraduate and are still thinking about further schooling, after-degree programs are often designed with specific employment options for when you finish. Talk with a career counsellor to see where your local job market is seeing a high demand. This could help you with your education decisions.